Fresh cuts and community engagement the focus of new exhibition at the Blacktown Arts Centre

Garage Barbershop, a new exhibition at the Blacktown Arts Centre, is a celebration of the craft and culture of barbering, and the important role the humble barbershop can play within the community.

The focus of the exhibition is youth worker and self-taught barber Charles Lomu, and his five apprentice barbers, who have set up on shop in an unassuming garage in Blacktown, NSW. When trips to the barber with his son became too expensive, Lomu invested in some clippers and with the help of YouTube taught himself the skills to become a “serious” barber. Soon, with the help of donated furniture Lomu began providing his services to men from his Pacific Islander and church community. This humble garage barbershop became a place not just to get a quality haircut, but a place for men to congregate and converse in comfort and without judgement.

The exhibition is the end result of ten weeks of intensive barbering skills development workshops, between Lomu and his five apprentices, all of Pacific Islander backgrounds. The workshops not only taught these apprentices the skills required to become barbers, but also took them on a journey of self discovery, social inclusion and leadership, and asks the question what does it mean to be a man in today’s society. The exhibition captures these encounters and exchanges, through a series of photographic portraits by international fashion photographer Harold David, which sit alongside candid video interviews with men from Western Sydney, exploring the topic of  modern masculinity.

“Over 10 weeks, we had the pleasure of witnessing 5 young men mature as they thrived on learning the art of barbering,” said Mr Lomu. “This project recognises that manhood is not determined by age, but by a mature way of life. Our communities, now and in the future, can only benefit from the development of young men today.”

This project and exhibition then, is about more than just great cuts and some quality photography, but also about empowering young men and helping give them a bit of a leg up in the world. Councillor Stephen Bali, Mayor of Blacktown City, had this to say of the project, “What Charles has built in his garage is so much more than a simple neighbourhood barbershop… Through this project, he has empowered his group of apprentices with entrepreneurial skills… These young men have seized this opportunity, and the bond between Charles, the ‘Original 5’ and their community of customers has been brilliantly captured by accomplished fashion photographer Harold David”

The large scale photographs depict the camaraderie between the men of Garage Barbershop, and also the moments of quiet tension, as they trace razor straight lines with blade to skin.

The Garage Barbershop exhibition runs from Thursday 11th May until Saturday 3rd June at Blacktown Arts Centre. The centre is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Admission is free. For more information visit HERE

Visitors to the exhibition can also make an appointment for a cut, fade or shave by Charles Lomu and his apprentices, the ‘Original 5’, every Thursday during the exhibition. To book visit HERE. The appointments are free, but limited, so booking is essential.


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Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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